The Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race included an unusual stage for its type of race on Wednesday. The fourth stage of the seven-day Pennsylvania race was run in an enduro format, with five timed segments linked by untimed transfer sections. Only the timed sections counted toward the stage results and the general classification.
Women's enduro stage winner Sue Haywood (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's Team) told Cyclingnews after finishing, "It was really cool. It was a different format. I've done super Ds and enduros, but not in the middle of this big stage race."
"Today took a change in mindset. Not knowing where you were going made it really exciting. I liked it, but it was hard on the adrenal glands."
The enduro stage came in the middle of seven days of racing. With the uphills generally not timed, it gave racers a sort of break although they were still competing on the downhill sections.
"I thought the segments were good, and the enduro was a good way to break up the race," said Haywood. "It's also a neat way to showcase some different people, and they did a good job of making the transfers easy. They did a lot of work to make this stage way better than two years ago."
Two years ago, the organizers had tried a format of several mini-cross country races, which were more like several mass start enduro segments. The format didn't work nearly as well as the individual timed section format applied on Wednesday.
Haywood was pleased to get in some enduro race time given that she will be doing some more enduros in the future. "I'm kind of switching to enduro for a month or two after this," she said. "When you just get into enduro, there is a lot more specialization. It's good to get some racing in beforehand."
It was a tough day on equipment. Race leader Justin Lindine (Redline) faced a few mechanical issues including a crank that fell off before the start, a flat during an enduro segment and a chain issue.
"You don't do seven days of racing without having some adversity," said Lindine. "I got a flat at the end of one section, but luckily it was just seconds before the end of the section, so I rolled out of it without losing any time."
Women's runner-up Andrea Wilson (Brickhouse Racing) broke her bike, probably in a crash during one of the segments.
"I broke my frame today. I don't know if it was a result of wrecking. I did have one wreck, and it seemed like my bike hit the ground harder than me," she said. "I guess I'm riding my hardtail the rest of the race."
"The enduro stage format was a lot of fun. It seems like it was hard on everyone's body and equipment in a different way than the other stages the rest of this week."
Although a majority of the racers were new to the enduro format, most seemed to catch on quickly. Racers had to swipe a timing card at the beginning and end of each segment. They could start each segment any time in any order and results were tallied at the end of the day.
"I think people were good about allowing enough time in between riders so no one was bearing down on each other," said Lindine. Racers queued up at the top of each timed section, patiently waiting to give each rider ahead of them plenty of room.
Men's runner-up Derek Bissett was pleased with the quality of each segment. "The enduro segments today were more enduro-like than those embedded in the rest of the race. It was good for big bikes and big tires."
Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt), who is leading the men's enduro classification and who finished third on the enduro-specific stage shared his strategy for the enduro stage, "It's about getting the balls to go as fast as you can. Normally the bike will follow where you look, and so I went with that and it worked out today."
Fifth place men's enduro stage finisher and third overall in the GC, Sam Koerber (ProGold), who is the brother of former World Cup racer Willow Koerber, said, "It was fun. Those were some good, hard downhills."
"I had no idea of what was coming, but I think that's something you get used to. But every stage has been like that and I enjoy that," said Koerber.
Racers at the Trans-Sylvania Epic will continue to compete in the enduro classification for the remaining three stages.